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Russian-Style Digital Transparency

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, April 1 2011

Alexey Navalny, a tech-savvy Russian anti-corruption activist, is profiled by Julia Ioffe in the New Yorker:

Tall and blond, Navalny, who is thirty-four years old, cuts a striking figure, and in the past three years he has established himself as a kind of Russian Julian Assange or Lincoln Steffens. On his blog, he has uncovered criminal self-dealing in major Russian oil companies, banks, and government ministries, an activity he calls "poking them with a sharp stick." Three months ago, he launched another site, RosPil, dedicated to exposing state corruption, where he invites readers to scrutinize public documents for evidence of malfeasance and post their findings. Since the site went up, government contracts worth nearly seven million dollars have been annulled after being found suspect by Navalny and his army. Most remarkably, Nalvany has undertaken all this in a country where a number of reporters and lawyers investigating such matters have been beaten or murdered.

It's a gripping profile of somebody using the blogging medium, digital collaboration, and cold hard data to renegotiate the relationship between the citizen and the state/business class, in a place where "renegotiating" can look a lot like hand-to-hand combat. Ioffe's piece is only available to subscribers or for a per-issue fee. The author did a Q&A on the piece yesterday, and you can dive into that here. Alternatively, bloggers have translated the Navalny profile into Russian.